ONLINE GAMING IN UGANDA
By Paul Ndiho
Video gaming is undeveloped in Africa. Though various start-up companies have appeared across the continent, few successes have been made. Well, in Uganda, Kola Studios might be a game changer. Creators of the popular card game “Matatu” are making their mark on the global tech scene.
The introduction of broadband Internet has spawned a generation of young ICT savvy people in Africa. Gaming is among the fastest growing industries on the continent. Here in the Ugandan capital Kampala, young techies have developed a cutting edge mobile APP called “Matutu”. At over one hundred thousand downloads the card game has been played over 6 million times.
With the success of this gaming app, Jasper Onono, the brain behind all Android apps at Kola Studios has joined the growing ranks of East Africa’s wiz kids helping to propel the region into the tech spotlight.
“It’s the most popular game in Uganda right now. The idea came up back on campus when we were attending a conference. A thought just hit us: ‘Oh, why don’t people have this game on their phones.”
Matatu – a traditional two-player card game – has long been popular here in Uganda. But with the rapid growth of the smartphone market – in Kenya alone 1 in 5 people access the web through their phones. Sharon Rwakatungu says that the goal of the game is to play all your cards before your opponent.
“I like having it on the phone because then I can playing it anytime. Even when I’m alone, I don’t need to have friends around or a group of people. I can just have it on my phone and play it anytime, anywhere. And it’s fun.”
In 2011 Matatu was a finalist in Google’s Android Developer Challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa – providing them with publicity and mentoring, as well as having their app hosted in Google play store and Google cloud.
Uganda has experienced a dramatic “tech-hub boom” – spurred on by collaborative workspaces such as Outobox, Innovation Village and growing international investment where investors are looking to break into these lucrative markets.
“When you ask young people, about apps they have on their phones, they tell you that at least five apps on their phone, are either from Ugandan or Kenyan apps. I feel like that will go a long way in encouraging other young people to believe that there is more potential than just what they see. We’re not just consumers of content, but we’re creators of it.”
If the future of computing lies in mobile – and the fastest growth in mobile comes from the developing world – many are beginning to look to African startups for a taste of things to come.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) a multinational professional services network based in London, Africa’s gaming industry has been on a significant upswing in the past few years, driven primarily by advances in mobile phone technology.